We’re amazed at how often we visit customers’ plants and find that their emergency equipment has been blocked from access or obviously not turned on and checked for a very long time. It’s easy to have things that you see every day become “invisible.” If your emergency equipment is invisible to you, it’s probably invisible to your employees, too. Think about it.

Here are seven steps to assure a non-panicked response to emergencies in your facility:

1) Weigh your risks

It might seem obvious, but there are several important reasons to take a moment and assess your risks. Changes in industrial processes, products and the size and geography of your operation can alter your risks, lowering or raising them. Blindly following practices used in the past could be a dangerous error. Likewise, changes in the state-of-the-art emergency equipment, if employed, could have a dramatic impact on your overall risk.

2) Identify your needs

When you consider your risks, specific emergency response needs become obvious. The key here is to start with the big picture. Consider the scope of geography that could be involved in a single incident, and the size of worst-case response requirements.

ANSI has specific standards for placement and access time for drench shower and eyewash facilities. Some considerations:

  • How many showers and eyewashes do you need — and where should they be located? Remember: This should be based on the worst-case scenario. So the number of showers and eyewashes needed, as well as the available water pressure to service multiple simultaneous uses should be considered.

  • While you’re considering available water pressure, also consider the ambient water temperature. Remember: A 15-minute use cycle using many areas’ ambient temperature water can readily lead to hypothermia.

  • What type of equipment do you need, based on the hazardous materials used?

  • What type of activation alarming is needed? In remote locations, centralized monitoring is often needed to ensure follow-on treatment and assistance.

    3) Consider your alternatives

    Like most products we buy, a wide range of emergency equipment is available, usually at prices proportionate to features, content and quality. (Read: You get what you pay for!) The important thing to remember is that it is possible to buy features you don’t need, as well as equipment that will fall short of your requirements.

    One of the best things you can do is to be armed with an understanding of some of the standard features available in certain offerings, such as:

    Flow controls: Integral flow controls assure that the flow to both the shower head and eyewash will remain constant in the event that both are needed simultaneously. In the absence of an integral flow control, the flow pattern to either the shower or eyewash (or both) could diminish during simultaneous use. These decreased flows could easily fall below ANSI or other requirements.

    Actuation: Some products provide for both hand (flag handle or pull-rod) and foot (additional foot treadle) actuation. This can be a critically important feature in many applications where potential injury could limit single or primary actuator use.

    Colors and high-visibility pipe markers: Both OSHA and ANSI recognize the color green as denoting “safety.” Specifically, the color green is reserved for the “location of safety equipment, respirators, safety showers, etc.” Standardizing your operation to be consistent with this coding protocol assures compliance while minimizing risk. Some available emergency equipment follows this protocol, some does not.

    Pre-assembly and pre-testing: Certain available products feature substantial pre-assembly and pre-testing at the factory, prior to shipment. While these features obviously only apply to the initial installation of the equipment, they should be considered at purchase time. Pre-assembly provides the benefit of having experts, for whom emergency equipment is a core-competency, assemble critical components of your product for you. This also affords the manufacturer the opportunity to pressure test the assembly, assuring both integrity and operation. And the pre-assembly function often saves up to 40 percent on the final installation labor.

    Third-party certifications: Specifiers should look for third-party certifications, using the ANSI Z358.1 standard. Independent certifications are your assurance that a third-party has measured a particular product against a standard set of baseline operating criteria.

    Remember this, too: Standard catalog products are designed for general installations, with average “plug-and-play” circumstances assumed by the manufacturer. In some instances, though, the actual use of the equipment falls outside of these assumed circumstances.

    For example, if the ambient water temperature is either higher or lower than appropriate it may be necessary to add tempering or reverse tempering components upstream from the shower/eyewash. These added elements will either warm or cool the water, facilitating full 15 minute duty-cycle use. Or if available water pressure is not sufficient to support simultaneous multiple shower/eyewash use, an upstream booster pump may be needed.

    4) Think big

    More aggressive industrial processes and widespread use of hazardous materials continue to change the paradigm for emergency equipment selection. What used to be a simple matter of selecting a turnkey piece of equipment is rapidly driving consideration of a broader integrated emergency response system specific to your business and your facility.

    5) Make responses automatic

    The best way to assure a clockwork-like response in an emergency is to have it be second nature to all employees. Drill the team religiously until its response is automatic. Then keep drilling as often as necessary to maintain that sharpness. “War games” can be a fun change of pace, but they are indispensable practice, too.

    Safety incentives, reminders and “zero injury” programs all help to keep the focus on safety and emergency response.

    6) Audit weekly

    Check your emergency equipment weekly, as prescribed by ANSI, and do it very visibly for your employees. Consider selecting a different person at random each week from the general employee population to assist you in checking equipment. You’ll be surprised how that can lead to everyone becoming interested in “where the nearest eyewash is and how it works.”

    7) Stay focused

    With a strong safety and response focus from management and dedication to preparing the whole team for any eventuality, panic and “freezing up” in emergencies can be virtually eliminated. Like so many things in life, it just takes a commitment to getting it done.

    For more information on emergency drench showers and eye/face wash alternatives available visit www.hawsco.com/mx.

    SIDEBAR: Safe glove practices: Know the limits

    Examination gloves are effective barriers against a variety of biological and chemical hazards. However, glove-using facilities must implement safe glove practices. This begins with identifying appropriate gloves for the environment.

    An informed glove purchase requires an understanding of regulatory compliance, technical glove data, appropriate applications for use and durability limits. A reputable glove supplier can assist in a glove evaluation by performing specialized testing in relation to workplace hazards. Such testing provides information beyond recommendations made in material safety data sheets (MSDS), which simply call for proper hand protection when handling particular materials.

    Users should also review their supplier’s product performance data, which includes chemical resistance charts, bio-penetration test results and post-market surveillance. It also is used to further identify the proper glove for the job.

    Realize, too, that there can be significant differences between the barrier resistance of natural rubber latex (NRL) and synthetic exam gloves. This is one of the many reasons that exam gloves should be used within the limits of performance or durability ratings. To address the need for such ratings, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has proposed the following durability rating chart for examination gloves (an indication of how this matter may be regulated in the future):

    ASTM Examination Glove Durability Rating

    Type of Task:

    A. Rigorous twisting, friction, gripping, fingertip pressure; high risk of infection.

    B. Mild twisting, friction, gripping, fingertip pressure; minimal risk of infection.

    C. Minimal physical stress; little or no chance of contact with infection.

    Duration of Task:

    1. Long term: Greater than 30 minutes.

    2. Intermediate: Less than 30 minutes.

    3. Short term: Less than 10 minutes.

    The Durability Rating — comprised of a letter for the Type of Task and a number for the Duration of Task, e.g.:

    A1 = Rigorous, high risk – long term.

    B2 = Mild risk – intermediate term.

    C3 = Minimal risk – short term.

    — Tito Aldape, vice president, Regulatory and Scientific Affairs, Microflex Corp. He can be reached at (800) 876-6866.